Director: Jean Pellerin
Canada - 1998
Wow! This movie was just like Scream!
A hot teen ensemble cast!
Thrills and chills!
Difference being, this movie was crap!
Well, I actually thought Scream was pretty crappy too, but I digress.
What attracted me to The Clown at Midnight was the cast. Well, not the entire
cast - just Margot Kidder. I had recently caught Superman II on cable one Sunday
afternoon, and between thoughts of "How can I be enjoying something as thoroughly
hokey as this?" I pondered: "Say, what has Margot Kidder been up to
nowadays?" Now, I vaguely recalled hearing about her having something to the effect
of a nervous breakdown recently - which is none of my business - but what I specifically
wondered that fine Sunday afternoon was when, if ever, Ms. Kidder might delve back into
film again. Ironically, only a few days later, while rummaging through the New Release
wall at Blockbuster, fate stepped in and turned my attention towards this...uh...epic.
After actually viewing The Clown at Midnight, however, I realized that fate
sometimes had a way of sticking it to you.
It's a shame really, the beginning held such promise.
We start in the past, after the final performance of Pagliacci, a tragedy
concerning a lovesick clown. (Perhaps Pagliacci was the inspiration for all those
velvet portraits of crying clowns. Yup, besides Elvis, Bruce Lee and Jesus, crying clowns are a hot commodity in the
world of velvet paintings.) The star of the show, Lorraine Sedgewick, is in her dressing
room getting funky with her beau. After the deed is done and the gentleman has left the
premises (get it and go -just like a man! Hrmph!), Lorraine receives a letter from one of
her fellow actors proclaiming his love for her, and something to the effect that if he
can't have her, no one will. Almost immediately thereafter, the letters author,
dressed as the sad Pagliacci, bursts forth from Lorraines closet and kills her.
And now its the present. Lorraine's daughter, Kate, is a college student majoring
in - you guessed it - theater. The opera house which hosted Pagliacci has been shut
down for years, but the theater group of Kate's school has taken it upon themselves to
restore the historic venue as a summer project. Kate's best friend, Monica, talks her into
joining said project. And why not? Do something with your summer, girl! Long gone are the
days of sitting around the house, wasting space and watching reruns of CHiPs. Get
out! Take some initiative! Do something constructive! Stir up some horrific memories of your mother's death! It'll be fun!
So Kate, Monica, and a rag-tag group of stereotypical college students - along with
their teacher, Mrs. Gibby (Kidder) - head out to the decrepit theater, roll up their
sleeves, and put their noses to the grindstone.
Now, when I say stereotypical college students, were talking an unwholesome
conglomeration of The Breakfast Club and The Real World. Our
group includes the requisite jock, the princess, the homosexual (flamboyant as the day is
long, naturally), the geek, the freak and Kate as a Neve Campbell clone.
I would like to say that the creative thrust of the film is concentrated in the story,
but the key word here is LIKE. The plot, after a promising beginning, becomes typical
slasher fare. Teens separate from the group, teens get knocked off. Teens fornicate, teens
get knocked off. So basically, teens get knocked off.
The only saving grace of The Clown at Midnight is some surreal scenes featuring
the maniac clown. But come on now, a clown, at least to me, is a cheap ploy for thrills.
Almost anything involving a clown will seem somewhat strange. Once I had a friend of mine,
while reading a book of hypothetical questions, ask, "Would you answer a knock at
your door at midnight if you looked through the peephole and saw a clown staring
back?" And then the follow-up: "What if the clown was crying?"
I have no idea where I'm going with this.
Back to the film. I kinda like Margot Kidder. She doesn't strike me as the ultimate thespian, but she's
not too shabby, either. Perhaps this mild admiration stems from the nostalgia of growing
up with the Superman films; or maybe it comes from her inspired performance in De
Palma's Sisters. At any rate, I sincerely hope Ms. Kidder chooses a bit more wisely
in terms of her future acting endeavors. It's a damn shame when people are reduced to this
So, If you have a hankerin for a good clown movie (and really, who doesn't
appreciate a good clown film?), then by all means, see Clownhouse. It's a tad
uneven, but eons better.
Oh, and do not see Terror on Tour.
Buy it! We love your money!
-- Copyright © 2000 by J. Bannerman